How to Check Brake Pads

Knowing how to check brake pads on a car is something that every driver should know how to do themselves.

If you don't know how to do it yourself, then when you take your car to the repair shop to have them look at it... they could tell you anything they wanted and you wouldn't know if they were telling you the truth or not.

It's important to at least know if you really do need new brakes or not before you take your car to the shop. If you do brake jobs yourself then you obviously need to know how to tell if they need replacing or not. Learn both the quick and thorough method for checking brake pads below:

How to Check Brake Pads Without Removing Wheel

The fastest way to check your brakes is to look through the holes in your wheels where the brake caliper and pads are.

You will probably need either a really bright flashlight or a small, long flashlight that you can fit between the holes in your rims. Not all rims have large enough holes in them that you can see how much material is left on the brake pads but many do. If you can see them through the wheel holes and they are more than about 20% worn then you need to replace your brake pads. 

This picture will give you an idea of whether you need to replace your brake pads:

Changing Brake Pads

Removing Wheels for a More Thorough Brake Check

By far, the best way to change your brake pads is to remove the wheel and look at the back of the caliper. You will be able to see how far each of the pads are worn down. Keep in mind though that sometimes the front of the brake pads wear faster so you might need to check the front edge as well. 

By removing the wheel you will be able to get a much better view of the brake pads as well as the condition of the caliper, rotor and brake lines as well. It is a good idea to inspect each of the items related to the braking system while you are looking at the pads.

If any of them need to be replaced it is much easier to pick them all up at the parts store at once rather than missing something during your inspection and having to put the car back together so you can go back to the store to get the other things you need.

Here is a photo that shows the best way to check your brake pads:

After you know how to check brake pads and check them yourself you will be much better prepared when you go buy the parts to do the job yourself or when you take it to the repair shop to have them repaired for you. 

A Few Things to Remember

Here are a few things to keep in mind when checking your brake pads:

- Always be sure that your brakes are cool. If you have just gotten back from driving the car or truck then you will want to let the brakes cool down for at least an hour or so. Brakes get incredibly hot when they are used a lot. I have burned my hands more than once by forgetting to let the brakes (and even lug nuts) cool down before working on them.

- If you're not sure, just replace them. If your brake pads are right on the line between needing to be replaced or going a few more months I would just replace them. It's good to just get it done while you are thinking about it rather than waiting a few months. You never know what will happen or how busy you will be when your brakes start making funny noises!

- Be sure to check your brake fluid as well when inspecting your brakes. Brake fluid is ignored sometimes and ends up causing problems because it hasn't gotten changed in several years. Take a look at the color of your brake fluid. If it is really dark it may need to be replaced.

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